Methot To The Madness
Blue Jackets defenseman Marc Methot has heard and read it all. But that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a reliable member of the Columbus defense.
The 25-year-old native of Canada's capital city has seen the predictions. He has received the texts and voicemails from friends and family back home. And he knows exactly what some in the hockey media think of him.
He has been labeled as a seventh defenseman and a healthy-scratch candidate since becoming a Blue Jackets regular. But nine games into what many players consider a fresh start in 2010-11, he has proven to be far more than a warm body.
Methot is logging heavy minutes against the best players of the opposition. He has shown comfort and confidence in carrying the puck up the ice, a key part of the team’s new system.
And Methot, the “shutdown” defenseman, happens to be one of the team’s top scorers (5 points) and owns a +5 rating.
“I use all of it,” he said, referring to the criticism. “There is not one piece of material that I don’t use. If there’s something out there that aggravates me, I’m going to use it.
“It reminds me every morning that I’ve got something to work for.”
Playing against the best players in the game?
No big deal. Since his days in junior hockey, that’s been his job and he takes pride in it.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have that opportunity (to shut down top players in junior and the AHL),” Methot said. “That experience has given me a lot of practice, confidence and assertion. It’s part of my game.
“In order to play in this league and succeed, that’s what I have to do.”
With heavy competition on the Columbus blue line in training camps and regular-season games in recent years, Methot saw the writing on the wall. To keep a job in the National Hockey League, he said, there is a lot of pressure to be better than the guy sitting next to you.
As summer progessed, Methot knew that he had a prime opportunity to cement himself in the Blue Jackets lineup. With head coach Scott Arniel on board and assistant coach Brad Berry coming in to coach the defensemen, Methot wanted to let his play become a convincing argument.
“I think what’s been real refreshing is that the coaches have a lot of confidence in me,” Methot said.
“A lot of that has to do with how I approached training camp—I had to give them every reason to believe in me.”
The feeling has been mutual, Arniel said. From the start of training camp, the coaching staff’s impression of Methot has been positive. Arniel sees a confident player that will continue to grow and become comfortable in the NHL.
“There is so much pressure on those guys to defend and to make the right decisions,” Arniel said. “Right now you can tell Meth is feeling good about himself.
“He’s in his third year and he’s starting to get it. He’s been a nice surprise for all of us and he has the tools. It was just about bringing it together, and he has (this season).” With injuries to defensemen Mike Commodore, Kris Russell and Anton Stralman (earlier this season), Arniel and staff have leaned on Methot. His workload has increased and the assignments have grown more difficult, but he has responded. Methot has delivered one thing that Arniel wants from each of his defensemen: consistency.
“Right from the beginning of camp, he’s been one of the guys that has played the same way night in and night out,” Arniel said. “I don’t know if he was inconsistent or not before (I came here), but I really notice that every night he competes.”
Methot drew power-play time last weekend in Chicago and Arniel liked the mobility and chances that he created. Methot was credited with the primary assist on the Blue Jackets’ winning goal—a blast from the point that was tipped in by Antoine Vermette.
“Any time you lose people, you need to have others step up and he’s been doing it on the penalty kill, power play and going against the other team’s top line (in 5-on-5 play), which is a tough assignment in this league,” Arniel said.
“He’s really gravitated to (the assignments) and you can tell he’s having fun playing the game.”